Microsoft's Project Natal Becomes Kinect, Gains Video Chat Functionality

The world has known that Microsoft was bringing a motion control system to market for months and months now. We've heard it referred to as "Project Natal" for as long as we can remember, and we were assuming that the company would simply retain the name after all of this time. We should have known better. As E3 begins in California this morning, Microsoft is making that motion system official, and it will go by the name "Kinect." It's impossible to see this name and not think of the Kin, a new feature phone line recently launched by none other than Microsoft. Whether or not the two are connected remains a mystery, but it's hard to imagine that this is a pure coincidence.

The company debuted Kinect in an unusual way: by integrating it into a performance by Cirque Du Soleil at USC. The Xbox 360 add-on will give a fresh take on a 4-year old console, with a built-in camera and microphone enabling gamers to actually act out movements in front of their TV and have their on-screen character react accordingly. A number of launch titles were also introduced, and while most of them are rather simply titles (much like Wii Sports was), there is a report that Star Wars will eventually launch a Kinect-enabled game.

Details on pricing are short, but we're hearing that a November release date is all but certain. That makes perfect sense given the upcoming holiday season, but it's still a long, long time from now. Another unique aspect that wasn't revealed until today, however, is Video Chat. It's hard to say how many people will actually want to stand in front of their televisions to chat, but at least it will be an option.